Food Porn: Mike A at the Hotel Lafayette

UPDATE: Since this posting, the restaurant has changed the image slightly and Chef Ed Forster has left the restaurant. Some of the following menu items are still available but the menu has lowered the price point of most of their entrees.

I’ve had some pretty amazing meals in the 3 1/2 years that Buffalo Eats has existed, but the meal I had at Mike Andrzejewski’s new restaurant Mike A at the Hotel Lafayette was probably one of the best if not THE best I’ve ever had.  I realize that I have gotten to know Mike personally and yes I was invited to this tasting with other food press in the area, so maybe I have a bias.  I don’t care.  I’ve had over 300 meals in Western New York and while several were very good this meal was excellent and convinced me that a change is coming.  What Mike Andrzejewski and Chef Edward Forster have brought to Buffalo is a true fine dining experience that stands alone and will hopefully set the bar for the area’s best restaurants.

Mike A’s is located in the Hotel Lafayette, a gorgeous and historic hotel that has been under taking some remarkable renovations over the last year.  You may remember Mike talking about this new project on our 20th podcast when he visited the Buffalo Eats studio.  The restaurant is located on the first floor of the hotel (their entrance is on Clinton).  Across the dining room is a very hip/cool bar that’s run by mixologist/sommelier Tony Rials, who interned at Eleven Madison Park and recently worked at Nikko in Rochester.  The cocktails at Mike A’s have their roots in pre-prohabition era recipes but almost all of the drinks have a more modernist take and the clever names show that they’ve had some fun coming up with the menu.  Wine drinkers will be happy to know they have a very good list (from what I was told by dinner guests who know better than I) and they have a couple beers available on the menu as well.

Quick Info:

My evening started at the bar with the lovely Christa Seychew, we decided to get there a little early to have a drink before our meal began.  She recommended the Saz-That-Rac ($9, pictured above) that I later found out that was one of Tony’s favorites as well.  The refreshing cocktail of rye, cognac, lavender absinthe, bitters and flower honey really hit the spot.  While you might not get the enjoyable show that you would at Vera’s (really the only bar that can compare drink-wise), the drinks at Mike A’s are just as delicious and definitely give Vera’s a run for “Best Cocktails in Buffalo.”

The rest of the press invitees started to show up and we eventually made out way into the dining room and to our 10 course meal that was before us.  Like our dinner at Windows in May, it was a fun experience to eat with other foodies who really love and can appreciate a good meal.  While we definitely were stuffed after our 10 courses, it should be noted that the portions shown below don’t reflect what a regular diner will actually receive.  Rest assured a full order of the following will be about twice the size (or in some cases, larger).

The meal started with an amuse-bouche, a small radish with butter pudding (pictured in gallery) that was a light snack to get our appetites started.  The radish had a great crunch and flavor while the butter pudding was rich and sweet.  That was soon followed by the first course of the meal, Wagyu Beef Tartare (normally $12) that was just insanely good.  I understand that raw beef isn’t for anyone, but this was incredibly delicious beef that was chopped thin enough to melt in your mouth.  The onion, truffled yolk and cracker gave the dish a nice balance of flavors and would convince any skeptic that raw beef can be a great thing.

The next course was the Fois Gras Torchon (pictured top) which was a “close your eyes this is so good” moment.  When Mike was recently interviewed on Christa’s latest episode of Side Dish, he stated that he was trying to find the best quality of meats/ingredients that he could.  That practice really came through in this dish, my experience with the fatty duck liver is pretty limited but I finally understood why people go crazy over it when I took my first bite.  The creamy texture and incredibly rich flavor was fantastic and pairing it with a pickled strawberry was a wonderful decision by the chef.  The Sea Scallop paired with the spicy Chorizo (pictured in gallery) was a dish that went over very well at the table.  Getting a full bite of scallop/fava bean/chickpeas was a delicious combination of flavors and textures.  The Corn & Clam Chowder ($9, pictured in gallery) was ‘prepared’ at the table as Chef Edward poured the creamy broth on top of the clams, charred corn and crispy bacon-infused potato chips.  The broth was similar to a really good seafood bisque.

The Veal Loin Oscar ($38, pictured in gallery) is one of the many classic dishes that Mike and Ed are taking inspiration from but then put a modern twist on the presentation and execution.  I’ve only had veal a couple times and I never understood what the big deal was, however the veal used at Mike A is some of the best.  The milk-fed veal was cooked perfectly and was incredibly tender.  The bernaise espuma (foam) was rich and creamy and getting a full bite of the veal/crab/asparagus/bernaise created wonderful combination of flavors in my mouth.  The Onion Soup Croquette (pictured above), along with it’s cocktail pairing, really got our table excited.  The dish itself was a clever play on French Onion Soup, all of the familiar components were present but in a unique way.  A crispy croquette held braised oxtail in a rich onion broth and was then covered in cheese.  When you cut into the croquette the tender oxtail and soup inside flowed out.  It was the best onion soup I’ve ever had and certainly the most creative take I’ve seen, but when paired with the Americano cocktail the dish was elevated to an even higher level.  The bitter, bubbly Americano paired against the rich, salty onion soup created a combination that somehow worked better then any of us could expect.

The final dinner course (before the desserts) was essentially the flagship entree, the 9th Grade Australian Wagyu Beef Strip Steak.  Normally served on the menu as a 12oz strip steak and costing north of $80, this isn’t a dish that everyone will be ordering on a regular basis.  But if you have the budget, I cannot recommend it enough.  Back in April I ate Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn and thought I had eaten some of the best, but the steak I had at Mike A’s clearly takes the crown.  The 9th Grade is based on the texture, marbling and actual color of the meat to Japanese beef standards.  The flavor of the beef is something I’ve simply never had before and as cliche as it is to say, it literally did melt in my mouth.  Tony Rials, who was explaining our courses throughout the night, told us that at the 9th Grade, the beef is essentially 50/50 meat to fat ratio.  It was one of the single best items of food I’ve ever had and I’m currently trying to figure out a way to raise the funds go back and have more.

We finally ended the meal with two courses of dessert, the first being a Lemon Sorbet (pictured in gallery) that was topped with a very refreshing and delicious house-made Meyer Limencello Soda.  Our little corner of the restaurant was starting to get warm after 10 courses paired with alcohol, so this was a nice cool down.  That was followed by Chocolate Pate (pictured in gallery), a very rich chocolate that was thick and creamy and paired with bitter blood orange jelly, pretzel crumbs and candied cashews.  I’m not the biggest sweets eater and at this point I was very full, but I made room so I could finish every last bite of each of the desserts.

The meal was near flawless and left everyone at the dinner in shock, these weren’t foodie n00bs like myself but seasoned eating veterans who’ve had more than a few great meals in their time.  We all agreed that the entire meal was fantastic and something that we haven’t seen in Buffalo’s dining scene.  It’s always risky when a restaurant decides to open in Buffalo that offer’s a new and unique cuisine that hasn’t been seen before, but Mike, Ed and the staff at Mike A’s are trying to bring a level of quality and service that was not available before.  What has happened in the last couple of months with the rejuvenation of this hotel and the new businesses that are operating out of the building is nothing short of a fairytale for the city.  Lets hope that Mike A at the Hotel Lafayette isn’t the final note but the first of many improvements to Buffalo’s dining scene.

Photo Gallery:

Mike A's at The Hotel Lafayette on Urbanspoon

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